How and why your law firm should move Tabs3 to the Cloud.
A lot of the law firms I work with use Tabs3 (and it counter-part: Practice Master) to manage their clients, their cases, their billing, their accounting and their practice. Tabs3 is a powerful, long-standing Practice Management and legal accounting suite. In the last few years, the legal software industry has seen a lot of upstarts and new faces: cloud-based software that allows law firms to mange their practice in the cloud: anytime, anywhere from any device. So the question law firms ask us is: Can you move Tabs3 to the cloud? And if so, how exactly does one move Tabs3 to the cloud?
Server-based / Hosted vs. Cloud-based
Before we dive in, lets have a quick refresher on server-based vs. cloud-based. Cloud-based (AKA web-based) legal practice management software, such as Rocket Matter, Clio and MyCase are run in a we-browser. This means (a) no software to install, and (b) you can access them from anywhere, and (c) no on-premise server to manage required.
The catch? Today, these web-based applications, compared to their server-based counterparts (such as Tabs3) have a lot less functionality and features. Cloud/web-based applications will seem watered-down, or too lightweight compared to the rich, robust functionality of server-based/desktop-based software like Tabs3. The long-standing server-based applications, like Tabs3, have had a decade-plus head-start, so its only natural that they do more. I’m not necessarily making the argument that server-based software is always better than their web-based counterparts: just acknowledging what I hear frequently from law firms that they wish they could have the mobility, security and reliability of the cloud–but keep their functionality-rich software.
They can. Here, we’ll walk through how to move Tabs3 to the Cloud, and gain the same security, mobility and reliability advantages you would with a web-based solution.
How to Move Tabs3 to the Cloud
You can move Tabs3 to the cloud. Here’s what you’ll need to do it.
Of course–first you’ll need the Tabs3 software. You may already have it, and may be a long-time user of Tabs3 . Or: perhaps you’re just starting or spinning off your new law firm. In the case of the latter you can acquire Tabs3 from STI directly or from an authorized reseller/consultant.
The basic ingredient: you’ll need cloud servers. These are servers (virtual machines) hosted in a data center or with a virtual server or cloud service provider. Really, you can get this almost anywhere: from big-box cloud companies like Amazon to even your local IT provider, who may have developed their own cloud sever offering (in an attempt to stay relevant in the cloud era). While you can technically get cloud servers from almost anywhere: you don’t necessarily want to. A generic, “generalist” cloud service provider, or a small local IT shop likely won’t have expertise or experience in hosting or supporting Tabs3. This is probably the most important factor as you develop or search for a solution to move Tabs3 to the cloud.
More on this topic later.
If you’re running Tabs3 Premium, you’ll need Microsoft SQL Server the database engine that Tabs3 runs on. Your Tabs3 database: your clients, your matters, everything you do in Tabs3 is stored in a SQL database, which lives within the SQL Server engine. This means you’ll not only need SQL Server software (licensing), but a dedicated server to run SQL server and host your Tabs3 database. Less experienced providers or IT professionals may try to host SQL on the same server as everything else–this will create significant performance issues for your firm. Get SQL and put it on its own dedicated server.
Your law firm will almost certainly need Microsoft Office: Word, Excel and Outlook. While not part of Tabs3 itself, when moving Tabs3 to the cloud it’s important to also consider Microsoft Office and the other software your firm uses (or plans to use), especially with Microsoft Office. Tabs3 integrates with the Office suite, including Word and Outlook, so its crucial that Tabs3 live in the same system that your Office software and documents do. Having the different software and systems your law firm uses in different places creates a disjointed “cloud hell” that you should avoid at all costs.
Related: Living in Cloud Hell
IT / Server Setup & Support
Now that you’ve got the core software and servers you’ll need: You’ll need an IT team to set up and manage the cloud server infrastructure. A competent team that has experience provisioning, managing and supporting virtual servers in a hosted environment. This may be your local IT company, or you may need to find a specialist.
And then there’s IT support. When you move Tabs3 to the cloud, along with your other software, documents and email: What you do for IT support today may not work tomorrow. You’ll want IT support that is able to manage, maintain and support your cloud infrastructure, as well as the software you rely on within it. The alternative is a nightmare of too-many-vendors, each of which will take little-to-no-accountability.
Next: You’ll need a team that can support Tabs3 itself. Tabs3 is powerful software, and with any powerful software comes the need for competent implementation and management. You’ll not only need a person or team familiar with installing and setting up Tabs3 within your new hosted environment, but someone that can install updates and troubleshoot the software as necessary. And–someone who knows both Tabs3 and SQL Server in order to properly manage your database and backups.
Your law firm needs email. While at first it may seem like how and where you host your firm’s email is unrelated to and apart from moving Tabs3 to the cloud… it is related. Tabs3 integrates with outlook in a variety of ways, so it’s important to consider your firm’s email when planning to move Tabs3 to the cloud. Ideally, your Exchange and your Tabs3 should all be hosted within the same cloud platform.
The Best Way to Move Tabs to the Cloud
The best way to move Tabs3 to the cloud is with a fully-managed, private cloud platform.
Does the list above seem like a big undertaking? Honestly–it is, if you try to do it yourself or even hire a local IT consultant to do it for you. Moving Tabs3 to the cloud, and doing it right, is a painstaking process. And the move to the cloud itself is only the beginning: Keeping Tabs3 (and the rest of your firm) running smoothly, reliably and securely is an art all itself.
Rather than trying to DIY your own cloud platform and rather than recruiting your local IT support provider to cobble together a quasi-cloud solution for your legal software, I always recommend a fully-managed private cloud that is designed specifically to host Tabs3.
With a legal-centric, fully-hosted, fully-managed private cloud, you’ll have everything in the above list (and more) preconfigured, tried and true, out of the box. You’ll have:
- Hosting for your Tabs3 and other legal software
- Tabs3 support and updates
- SQL Server licensing and hosting
- Microsoft Office software – built-in
- Exchange email – built-in
- Tons of storage for your database, documents and files
- Unlimited IT support
All from one company that takes full accountability for everything. One company to provide, manage and support the entirety of your law firms’ technology. And most importantly: A company that knows Tabs3, and that hosts and supports it for hundreds of law firms and legal professionals.
Finding the Right Legal Private Cloud Provider
Doing Your Due Diligence
As you explore legal-centric private cloud providers: there are a number of other serious factors to consider when selecting a private cloud provider before you move Tabs3 to the Cloud. As you explore companies, ask each one:
- Will your firm’s data be stored inside the US?
- Are they established and well-regarded in the legal community?
- How secure is their cloud against hacking or a cyber-attack?
- What kind of backups will they implement?
- Do you still own your data once you move it to the cloud?
- What happens if their served with a subpoena regarding your data?
The custodian of your data is an important role, so we recommend you do your homework. For some help, take a look at our Cloud Computing Due Diligence Checklist for Law Firms.